Over 20 million Americans battle against addiction every year with each story having a different beginning. Unfortunately only about 10% of these individuals receive the help they need, often due to the stigma surrounding addiction.
For some, their drug use began as a way to cope with stress at home or work. Others may have started using drugs or drinking in a social capacity before realizing they’ve begun abusing the substance outside of social settings. Even prescription drugs can lead to addiction when taken as directed as the longer a substance is used, the more likely it is for the individual to become addicted.
The Impact of Drug Use
Understanding how substance abuse and addiction can change a person is key to separating the disease from the human underneath. The reason substance abuse happens so often is that drugs interact with our brain in a way that releases chemicals typically reserved for rewarding positive experiences.
Think of the “runner’s high” you get after a workout. The satisfaction of exercising paired with the achievement of actually getting out and doing it leads to our brain sending out chemicals such as dopamine to make us happy. Now take that and make it instantly happen whenever a drug is used and you’ll see so many people fall victim to addiction despite its life-threatening side effects.
Given that the impacts of addiction are documented and widely known, this data isn’t part of the average person’s knowledge bank. Many people just accept that addiction happens without understanding what it means. Here are some of the most common stigmas associated with addiction and how we can work to change them.
1. Addiction Is a Choice
The first item on the list may be the most important one as it stops a majority of afflicted individuals from seeking help. While the first use of a drug may be a choice, the interaction between it and the brain can create cravings and impulses that remove the person’s choice in the matter. Mental and physical dependencies on drugs form over time and, if broken, can cause fatal side effects known as withdrawal symptoms.
To put this stigma to rest, we all have to remember that the person and the addiction are two separate entities. Picture addiction as a sort of parasite that requires drugs to survive and is in control of the individual it attached itself to. No amount of sheer will can overcome addiction, it takes treatment from a compassionate team of recovery specialists.
2. Treatment Doesn’t Actually Work
Typically you’ll hear the stereotype of someone going through rehab and ending up back on their drug of choice from a loved one who witnessed it happen. What they don’t realize is that recovery isn’t a single step process. It’s common for someone to relapse three or four times before achieving long-term sobriety and relapse can happen for any number of reasons.
Simply look at success stories for those who have overcome addiction and you’ll find that it took them multiple attempts. Even those who we view as strong and successful are no match for addiction. It’s important to remember this and motivate someone who has relapsed to resume treatment until they’re confidently sober.
3. The Individual Doesn’t Want To Get Sober
It can be easy to see someone who repeatedly returns to drug use as not wanting to quit, but the reality is that they’re using drugs to mask or avoid something else going on in their life. Mental illness, a poor home life and increased stress are all examples of situations that commonly get met with drug use. Others struggle with the thought of admitting they have a problem out of fear of being humiliated or judged.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, talks about her time in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she witnessed a man abusing heroin despite an infection on his leg. Due to how he had previously been treated by nearby hospital staff, he would rather risk losing his leg instead of being ridiculed again by those who are supposed to be there to help him.
No Matter the Stigma, Help Is Always Here
If you or a loved one are in need of help overcoming addiction, America’s Rehab Campus is here for you. With state-of-the-art facilities and a compassionate team of medical professionals, ARC gives guests the best chances at a sober life no matter how severe their addiction is.
For any questions or to initiate treatment, contact the ARC team today for a free and completely private consultation.